you find that the mainstream agile advice doesn’t work quite so well – at least not without modification. Let’s explore each of the ASM scaling categories one at a time:
- Team size . Mainstream agile processes work very well for small teams of up to 10 – 15 people, but what if the team is much larger? What if it’s 50 people? 100 people? 1,000 people? Organizations, are in fact, successfully applying agile strategies on programs of hundreds of people, but they tailor their practices and tooling approach to reflect the increased communication and coordination risks. In mid-2010 I ran a survey, which explored the success rate by delivery paradigm and found that agile strategies worked as well or better than traditional strategies regardless of team size. This leads me to predict that we’ll see more and more organizations reporting that they’re succeeding at large-team agile in 2011.
- Geographical distribution . The more geographically distributed you are the more challenging it becomes for team members to collaborate. Collaboration is easy when you’re all in the same room, a bit harder if you’re in different cubicles in the same building, harder yet if you’re in different buildings in the same city, and harder yet if you’re internationally distributed. Surveys have shown, once again, that agile teams are as successful if not more so than traditional teams regardless of the level of distribution. They’ve also shown that the majority of agile teams are geographically distributed in some manner, so I’ll go out on a limb to predict that organizations will continue to find ways to support geographically distributed agile teams in 2011. As an aside, if you are doing geographically distributed development, I highly suggest looking at the Jazz platform tools .
- Regulatory compliance . Many agile teams face regulatory compliance issues, such as the requirement to conform to Sarbanes Oxley, ISO or FDA regulations. As a result agile teams often must increase the formality of the work that they do and the artifacts that they create to conform to the regulations, and luckily surveys are starting to show that organizations are successfully doing so. Although agile regulatory compliance projects seem to be small in number now, I predict that 2011 will experience a noticeable upsurge in such efforts as organizations roll out agile strategies to a broader number of project teams.
- Domain complexity . Some project teams find themselves addressing a very straightforward problem, such as developing a data entry application or an informational Web site. Sometimes the problem domain is more intricate, such as the need to monitor a bio-chemical process or air traffic control. Or perhaps the situation is changing quickly, such as financial derivatives trading or electronic security assurance. The greater the domain complexity the greater the need for techniques to deal with the complexity. I predict that due to the continuing success of agile, we’ll see more organizations push their boundaries and apply agile in more complex situations in 2011, which in turn will drive a greater focus on agile modeling practices to help address such complexities.
- Organizational distribution . Sometimes a project team includes members from different divisions, different partner companies, or from external services firms. The more organizationally distributed teams are the more likely the relationship will be contractual in nature instead of collaborative. Over the past few years I’ve seen service providers apply agile techniques on IT delivery projects, sometimes of their own accord and sometimes at the request of their customers, and I predict that this trend will accelerate in 2011 due to the desire to reduce risk and time to delivery